The “rehabilitative ideal” was promoted in US “corrections” from the 1950s until the 1970s, when it came under attack from activists both on the left, for its tendency to depoliticize prisoners and violate civil liberties, and on the right, for its indulgent liberalism. After forty years of mass imprisonment, the penal binge in the United States has reached a point of economic and political exhaustion. This opening provides an opportunity to demystify the history of rehabilitation and articulate a progressive vision of criminal justice.

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